Firstly, thank you for all the prayers and good wishes. The surgery went well and Julia is doing great. Here’s an update of the entire process, which is way long overdue.
The surgery happened on 22 December and we were asked to be at the hospital a day earlier so that they can monitor and prepare her. Several doctors came to ask questions, did tests and even “set lines” in her hand so that they can insert the drip. She cried her lungs out when they poked her and as any parent will tell you, it pains you that you can’t do anything to relieve a child’s suffering. We were told that the surgery will take place the first thing in the morning. So both Appie and I stayed with her throughout the night. As with every surgery, one will have to fast at least several hours prior to the procedure. Julia had to fast too. I feared not being able to comfort her if she was hungry in the middle of the night. Thank goodness, she ate well for the last meal and slept through most of the night. When morning arrived, the nurse came and put her in scrubs. We then brought her to the operating theatre in a wheelchair and trying to stay calm, we kissed her cheeks as they carried her in. The next few hours were nerve-wrecking. We were informed of several complications that can take place but we tried to stay positive and calm. However, the lack of sleep from the night before did not help. It made us feel more sick. As the hours crawled by, we wondered why it was taking too long. Creepy thoughts ran through my head. She had been in the theatre for close to 3 hours, and the surgery was supposedly 2 hours long. We tried to find updates but the nurses were not able to provide us with any. We just had to wait. Soon, we received a call on the handphone informing us that the surgery went well and she was being prepared to be sent to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). We felt relieved as the tension eased away. We then made our way to the ward and waited to see her. About an hour later, we saw a glimpse of our tiny girl lying down on a huge bed with lots of wires around her being wheeled into the PICU. We were told to wait as they connect her to the necessary machines for monitoring her vitals as well as providing pain relief and medications. It took about an hour before we could actually go in to see her. When we finally saw her, it broke our hearts to see so many tubes and wires in and out of her tiny little body. The doctors explained what each one was for and how important they were. We were also informed that she would not be awake for the next day or two, and she was heavily sedated with morphine so she would not feel any pain.
As the hours and days go by, the doctors observed her progress and slowly reduced the amount of morphine and other sedatives to “force” her to breathe on her own. A couple of small setbacks happened but overall she was recovering pretty smoothly. By the third day, she slowly woke up with a tiny cry. I presume that she was still too exhausted and uncomfortable from the entire process. We felt relieved that she was awake. But watching her lie in bed with tears at the corner of her eyes, with tubes in and out of every possible part of her body and hearing her whimper softly simply broke our hearts. We felt helpless as we were not able to pick her up and hold her to make her comfortable and relieve her of the pain. However, we saw how strong our bundle of joy can be as she fought her way through.
By Christmas morning, our little darling was improving tremendously. She was barely on any medication and was feeding well. By the fifth day, she was transferred to a normal children’s ward for one more day of observation. On the sixth day, she came home. I’d say her recovery was pretty remarkable and I am certainly thankful for the prayers and wishes from everyone.
When she came home, we noticed a drastic change in her character. She cried a lot, wanted to be held close all the time and seemed more nervous of diaper changes. We think she was still distraught from the entire process. We took our time to just be with her and focused on keeping her comfortable. It certainly took its toll on us, we practically carried her for hours even at night. Some nights she slept in my arms just because she needed to be comforted. However, within a week, she got more comfortable and was sleeping in her own bed.
Since then, we’ve been to the specialists a few times to check if the surgery had helped solve the coartation problem. Indeed it has! The specialists are amazed by her progress and relieved to see that she’s doing great. There is however a tiny hole spotted in her heart but we were told that it won’t cause a problem. They will just monitor it over the years and if need be, it can be corrected easily. However, right now she’s been given a clean bill of health! During our last visit to the specialists, they said she’s progressed phenomenally! She’s put on weight and has grown a lot “longer”. We are certainly proud of her, our little sweet angel who has gone through so much since she came into this world.
As I look back at our stay at the hospital with her, I realised that there are so many children out there who are so sick with life-threatening ailments. Some have known nothing but the inside of a hospital building – fighting for their lives each day. I admire the strength that they and their parents have as they go through the treatment process. It makes me value my life a lot more and feel thankful for everything I have.